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Volume 3, Number 5
May, 1998

You Gotta See This Mr. Nice Guy

by Molly Degnan

Reviewing a Jackie Chan film is in many ways similar to reviewing Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin-- it is necessary to take the movie in the spirit in which it was intended. While familiar elements like plot and character development are necessary ingredients, they are clearly not focal points; judging any Jackie Chan film by traditional criteria would result in consistently terrible reviews. Fortunately, there are other elements that offset the uninspired storyline and strange camera work. Simply put, no matter how unconvincing the characters or silly the dialogue, Jackie Chan is just plain fun to watch.

Chan enthusiasts will note he doesn't play a policeman or secret agent in his newest film, the all-English Mr. Nice Guy, which is a change of pace. Instead, he is a popular television personality, a chef on a cooking show in Melbourne, Australia. Of course, he can't resist a damsel in distress, gets himself caught in the middle of a drug war, and finds himself facing off with Richard Norton, a martial arts expert in his own right.

There is more action and comedy in Mr. Nice Guy than in the last few Chan films. Thankfully, considering how convoluted his storylines can get, there is also less emphasis on plot. We get the basics: Chan at his action/comedy best, a bad guy, three beautiful, somewhat helpless females. (I could get on my soapbox now, but will restrain myself) Throw in a dozen high energy martial arts fights, several impressive action/chase sequences, an explosive finale, and the recipe is complete. Who cares that there are some sizable storyline gaps and that certain characters disappear halfway throughout the film? You want plot and character development, see the overblown City of Angels, a film that shouldn't have been remade at all, and especially not set in Los Angeles. But don't get me started on that.

As usual, however, the centerpiece of Mr. Nice Guy isn't the choreographed action sequences, but Chan himself. Unrestrained and charismatic, he not only manages to smile through most of the film, but causes audience members to do the same. The action is never too violent, and always tinged with comedy. He is getting better at his silent comedy schtick, with a hilarious sequence involving a maze of identical blue doors, and some close encounters with power tools, including two circular saws (be sure to stay for the outtakes). Some say as Jackie Chan grows older, he is slowly losing his touch. I disagree. The older he gets, the more normal and human he seems, which makes his antics funnier, and his martial arts more impressive.
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